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Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Namco
Publisher:  Namco
# of Players:  1-2 (arcade games)
Genre:  Platform
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  5-15-02

Wokka wokka wokka. One of gamingís oldest icons has returned, in the form of a brand new 3D platform game. From his humble roots way back in the early 80ís and despite a console to call his own (aka Sonic, Mario, etc.), Pac-Man has nevertheless endured as one of gamingís premier icons. Pac-Man World 2 is a nostalgia-filled platform experience thatís sure to please fans of the Man, although itís by the book design probably wonít win over any new converts.

Itís weird that despite the fact that Pac-Man pre-dates virtually every video game character, his latest game borrows almost everything from other platform games. One night the ghosts sneak into Pac-Village and start horsing around, and in the process pick five golden fruits from the big tree in the middle of the village. As it turns out, those fruits were sealing up an ancient and evil presence known as Spooky. Whoops. You can guess what follows: Pac-Man must set out to retrieve the five golden fruits (each held by a different ghost aka boss) and put Spooky back in his place.

It seems like most of Pac-Manís game design was ripped straight out of Sonic Adventure. His three basic attacks consist of a rev roll (spin dash to Sonic fans), kick-flip (jump and then kick), and butt bounce (aka every other platformer in existence). Levels are virtually identical to the ones found in Sonic Adventure, mostly consisting of side/forward scrolling levels filled with chasms, obstacles, enemies, springboards, switches, etc. The camera system switches between a fixed perspective and a free-rotating camera. Itís the primary problem with the game, but Iíll get into that a little bit later.

Yet despite the overall generic-ness of Pac-Man World 2, it still remains fun. It uses tried and true staples of the platform genre, and pulls them off better than almost any other platformer out there. The controls are very tight, as Pac-Man responds instantly and accurately to each button press throughout the game. A lot of moves are context sensitive, so that Pac-Man will automatically hang from ledges and shimmy along them right when you want him to. A butt bounce will react the same everywhere, only changing based on what you bounce on (a springboard will bounce you high in the air). Level design is smart, with multiple branching paths, numerous hidden areas, plenty of stuff to collect, and intuitive layouts.

And then, thereís the arcade. Found in Pac-Manís home village, the arcade houses five perfectly-emulated Pac-Man titles from the past. These include the original Pac-Man, Pac-Attack, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, and the Pac-Man World 2 Maze Arcade. The last one is basically a collection of all the mazes (hidden in each level) you run across during the main quest, and once theyíre beaten they can be accessed through the arcade unit at any time. The other four require a certain number of collected tokens to unlock, as does the jukebox located in the arcade. In addition to the arcade, the other thing that helps to extend replay value is the number of things to collect. In order to complete the game 100%, the player must collect all the fruit and Pac-Dots found in each level. Most people probably wonít bother, but it extends the game for those that will.

So while the overall design is tight, what hurts the gameplay is the horrid camera system. Unfortunately, it also seemingly copied this from Sonic Adventure. The camera will often fix at a perspective that makes it impossible to see our hero, resulting in many cheap deaths from falling off of ledges and taking leaps of faith. When the camera does give a good view of the action, itís still often hard to see oncoming enemies and obstacles without constantly playing with it. This is unfortunately the standard in most 3D platform games today, but that doesnít excuse it.

The graphics are very nice, with excellent texture work and an amazing cartoon feel. There are a number of different enemies and obstacles to contend with; each with itís own look and feel. Levels are huge, stretching out as far as the eye can see with only minimal slowdown. There is a little bit of pop-up on some of the larger levels, but for the most part itís unnoticeable. There are also some basic lighting and particle effects scattered throughout the game, although theyíre hardly complex. While thereís a little less geometry here than in most GameCube games (due to the gameís basic, cartoon feel and the fact that itís a PS2 port), Namco has still created an excellent looking game.  Sometimes smart design can make an average (technical-wise) game look much better, and that's the casehere. 

Sound is a mixture of the old and the new. A lot of the sound effects are pulled from classic Pac-Man games, including the dot-munching sound, dying sound, etc. The new sound effects all have a retro "feel" to them, and fit right into the rest of the game. The music is much the same, with a mixture of remixed older tunes and new ones in the same style. Good stuff.

Highs:

  • Several classic Pac-Man games to be unlocked.
  • Lengthy quest with plenty of stuff to collect provides a good bit of replay value.
  • The music fits the adventure perfectly.
  • Controls are extremely tight and react exactly as you want them to.
  • Very nice graphics. Nothing overly complex, but that doesnít matter when it still looks as sharp and vivid as this does.

Lows:

  • Possibly the worst camera system ever.
  • Almost all gameplay mechanics are ripped straight from other popular mascot platformers.
  • Probably too "kiddie" for a lot of gamers.
  • Some minor pop-up and slow-down issues, along with a few bugs that happen rarely (nothing worse than getting stuck in a rock).

Final Verdict:

Pac-Man World 2 is a fun, but predictable, platforming experience. It successfully copies the mechanics of most other platform games, which unfortunately includes a horrid camera ala Sonic. Alone itís still an above-average platform experience, but the inclusion of classic Pac-Man games pushes the value of this game up considerably.

Overall Score: 7.1

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